Work Is Personal: Why It’s Never ‘Just Business’

Work Is Personal: Why It’s Never ‘Just Business’ March 20, 2015

By Heidi Segal

12547460034_a0754ccbf8_oSpend half a moment in the workaday world and likely you’ll hear the phrase,”it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” What does that mean, exactly?

Is the marketplace uninhabited by people, disengaged from unique personalities and talents? For some, the phrase carries an esteemed objectivity corresponding to expeditious logic or a lifeless bottom-line. It provides assurance that a decision was made apart from personality and bears no responsibility for potential broken relationships or hardship. But if a course of action is good for all, for flourishing in the long term, why do we exclude the “personal?” Difficult decisions must be made, but aren’t they usually made by people concerning people?

I relish a “good deal,” which often translates to,“a steal.” In God’s Economy of All Things (oikonomia) our daily work and transactions are gift-exchanges with the unique gifts God has given to each of us. In Episode 3 of For the Life of the World (focusing on The Economy of Creative Service), Stephen Grabill shares how our free exchange of these gifts creates a vast and mysterious network of collaboration that glorifies God and contributes to the flourishing of creation. Participating in these intricate patterns of creative exchange we live out “economic and social shalom,” our true calling to be a royal priesthood in God’s world. This transforms my idea of a good deal! A good deal cultivates flourishing – blessing in the world. With every gift exchange I am challenged to consider: (1) Am I contributing to the growth and abundance of my community, God’s creation as a whole? (2) Is God, the ultimate gift-giver, honored in the exchange? 

As God’s image-bearers, we reflect the Trinity in his creation. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). What does that look like in our lives, in our hearts? Although the Trinity is beyond our comprehension, we do know God is personal and desires relationships with us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the Trinity are each a unique PERSON and yet complete as one unbroken relationship, overflowing with abundance and fellowship. God sent his Son who gave his life to restore relationships, and we are called to be like Jesus!

In Episode 4 (The Economy of Order), we’re reminded that “justice needs a face.” Justice is personal, face to face, not an institutional force or program “making it happen.” Living justly requires honoring the image of God in each person in our daily interactions and hospitality to the stranger among us. Profound thinkers throughout the ages have stressed the crucial importance of personhood, individuality, creativity and uniqueness. Why? History teaches us – cultures that undermine God’s image in people become unjust, inhumane. By redefining someone as a nonperson, they are no longer your neighbor. You don’t have to love them, personally.

Given that we serve a personal God who desires personal relationships with his children, it seems to follow that everything we do in God’s creation is personal. In his Confessions, St. Augustine likened the Christian’s pilgrimage on earth to a daily “remembering.” As the Holy Spirit renews us we remember who we are, who we are created to be, and we begin living out God’s restoration purposes in creation. In our everyday activities, do we remember the awesome beauty of personhood – unique personalities created in God’s image? Do we cherish relationships as opportunities to serve, bless and deeply know people for who God created them to be? Do we help others cultivate their gifts and contribute to the flourishing of our communities? Do we remember Micah 6:8?

Micah 6:8 (NIV):

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis reminds us of who we are dealing with in our everyday lives:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…

Why is the Gospel “good news”? It’s personal. It’s a breath-taking message of relationship restoration with God, with people, and with God’s creation. It transforms a “good deal” into blessing our neighbors, our cities, and God’s creation. Oikonomia, the great exchange of God’s abundant gifts, happens from person to person to person to person… and people walk away changed for the better.

FLOWOne day this will be fulfilled absolutely. It will be a Feast. We’ll rejoice with personalities unique and beautiful by God’s perfect design.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Heidi is a writer, producer and visual consultant who helped develop the For the Life of the World Field Guide with the great people of Acton Institute. She resides near Grand Rapids, MI, and calls Nashville, TN, her second place to be.

This post was originally published at the FLOW Blog.

Photo credit: uberof202 ff

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